Spring Gardening

For spring gardening, find out the average date for the last frost in your area. Thirty days before that, you can put in cool weather crops. You can plant from seeds, transplant what you have already started from seeds indoors, or buy the transplants from a nursery.

The Cabbage Family

The cabbage family, brassica, (which includes cabbage, broccoli. Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage or bok choy, collard greens,  kale, kohlrabi, Swiss chard) is perfect for spring gardening. These vegetables are cool weather crops, most of which do not thrive in hot summers. They take so long to grow, however,  that there is not time to plant seed directly into the soil. Put out transplants that you buy from the nursery or that you have started yourself indoors. 

Start broccoli and Brussels sprouts indoors or buy starts from the nursery. Broccoli can go into your raised beds but I prefer to put mine in containers.Leave 12 inches around each plant. Water daily. Do not let them dry out.

Cabbage is a classic spring gardening vegetable. It is very easy to grow. Again, use transplants, 12 inches around each plant. Water thoroughly and often until the head is formed. Then cut back on the watering. Otherwise the head will grow to fast and split. You can build a tent of window screen wire if you want to keep the cabbage worms off. The tent will prevent the little white butterflies from laying their eggs which hatch into cabbage worms. However, if you plant early enough, you may harvest before it gets warm enough for the insects. My friend, Cathy, says she has had cabbage freeze to the ground and it came back from the roots and make cabbage.

After harvest, cabbage can be kept in your refrigerator from three weeks up to 2 months. My grandparents could keep it even longer in their root cellar. 

Although Swiss chard is usually included in spring gardening, you can plant it in any season, spring, summer, or fall,  and in some climates it will over-winter.  It will grow in sun or in partial shade, though full sun is best. Transplanting started plants is best, but it can be sown outdoors. 

Another easy vegetable for spring gardening is Chinese cabbage, or bok choy. It matures faster than regular cabbage, producing crisp heads of leaves and stalks. Very nutritious. You can sow the seeds directly or start indoors. Water mature plants once or twice a week.

Kale and Kohlrabi of the cabbage family, are tolerant of cold weather and easy to grow. Unless nights remain cool in the summer, pull up the old plants and replant in the fall. Gather the older outer leaves of kale for tasty cooking green. New leaves will constantly emerge.

Kohlrabi forms a crisp bulb above ground that can be eaten raw or served as a cooked vegetable.  Young leaves are good as salad greens, but older ones may be tough and inedible.

Water mature plants once or twice a week.

Collard greens are easy to grow from seeds and are usually planted in the fall. However they are excellent for spring gardening if you pick them hand size and eat as baby greens. Plant as you would lettuce, keeping the soil moist with a light spray until the seeds sprout. Then thin as they grow, putting the thinned plants in your salad. Check the soil daily and water as needed.

Spring Root Crops

Beets pack a nutritious double whammy. We not only eat the root, but the greens make a tasty green leafy dish. The seeds are a little different however. Each seed is actually a cluster of 2 to 5 individual seeds. Presoak the seeds and plant in parallel rows spaced 3 inches apart. Plant the seeds ½ inch deep and 3 inches apart. Water well. Harvest while they are young for best flavor. 

Carrot seeds are very small. They do not transplant well, so they need to be started outdoors from seed. Carrot roots go very deep, so you need to have a bed that is at least 12 inches deep. This is accomplished either by building a tall box or by digging into the soil beneath a shallower box.

Plant in rows 3 inches between rows and 3 inches between seeds.  Take a tiny pinch of seeds (try for 2 or 3 seeds per pinch) and drop in each hole. Sprouts will come up in 2 or 3 weeks. If more than one comes up in a hole, you will need to thin to one. If none comes up in a hole, replant that hole.

Alternately, you can make a shallow (1/4 to 1/2 inch deep) trench and sow lightly. You will need to thin. Wash thinned plants well and put in a salad.

Water gently with a spray bottle. You can cover the bed with a sheet of plastic until the plants sprout. Continue to spray the little plants daily until they are almost mature, then cut back on the watering so that they don't crack. 

Potatoes can be put out in early spring. Mine go in a very long bed, 1 foot by 10 feet. Buy seed potatoes from the nursery. Cut them in chunks with at least one or two eyes per chunk. Lay the cut side down in you bed and push the potato in about 2 inches into the loose soil, 12 inches apart. Cover the potatoes with 6 inches of straw. Water well. When the plants emerge, add another 6 inches of straw. After the plants have bloomed, you can start using the potatoes. Just pull back the straw and take what you need. Replace the straw. You will have clean, dirt-free potatoes all summer.

Radishes should be planted in succession. If you plant the whole packet of seeds they all mature at once. Instead plant a few each week for a continuous harvest. This can continue all summer if you like radishes. Keep soil evenly moist until shoots emerge.

Daikon radishes with long white roots can also be planted, but they do better in the fall.

Turnips are best planted in the fall, but they can also part of spring gardening. The turnip root needs to be harvested before the temperatures reach 75 degrees, thus making fall planting the best planting time. However, a spring planting can yield wonderful greens. Plant early, 30 days before last frost.

Prepare your soil. I like to sow the seeds sparsely then thin to 4 inches apart. Keep soil evenly moist. Do not let it dry out. You want the turnips to grow fast so they do not become tough. Harvest before the weather gets hot. And eat your greens!

Other Spring Gardening Crops

Start leeks indoors from fresh seeds,  or buy starts if you can find them. They can be interspersed with potatoes or other cool weather plants.

Spring gardening with lettuce and other leafy salad greens, I violate my own rules. I sow them lightly in the soil, then start eating the thinnings as soon as they get a little growth on them. I thin until I have 4 inches (the package will say 8 inches) around plants that will left to grow larger. Lettuce will sprout in 5 to 10 days; spinach, one to two weeks.  Keep evenly moist until sprouts appear.

Buy little onion sets, sold by the pound at the seed store. Make parallel rows 6 inches apart and put the sets in 6 inches apart. After they are about six inches tall, pull out for your salad as you need them. If you leave a few in, you will have big onions later in the season. I do not do this as onions are so inexpensive at the grocery store. I prefer to use my soil for rarer veggies. Weekly or bi-weekly watering.

I plant parsley in pots generally. One plant is enough for me, but I put out a couple of extra plamts in a butterfly garden for the parsley worms which inevitably show up. These are the larvae of swallowtail butterflies.  If you like a lot of parsley, it does nicely in beds in the spring. A screen wire cage can protect the parsley you intend to use, as it keeps the butterflies from laying eggs on the plant. 

For green peas (snow, snap, or shell) make little rows 3 inches apart. Poke holes in the soil one inch deep, 3 inches apart, and drop a seed in each one. Cover and pat the soil gently with your hand. Peas like to climb, so I provide something for them to hang onto. It can be a network of sticks and string about 12 inches above the soil, but usually I just put some little dry tree branches in and let them climb.  Tomato cages could also be used, but that is almost overkill. Keep soil evenly moist until shoots emerge.

Plan your spring gardening in the winter when you are dreaming by the fire. Make a list of veggies and the dates they need to be started. When the crocus blooms it is time to start!

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Gardening in Northern Nevada--An Update Not rated yet
Good Morning Dalene Right now only the strawberries & garlic & rhubarb & Berries that over-wintered are showing well. Everything else are still just sprouting. …Your Story

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